Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Worship Wednesdays - How Do We Lead Worship When We're Hurting?

We've all been there. The days when going to church is the last thing on your mind. It could be the job you're about to lose, the love that just walked out the door, the diagnosis that was revealed, or the fear that came true. Whatever it is, it's huge and it's overwhelming, filling your body with aches and your heart with pain. And the last thing you want to do is put on your Sunday best and exchange pleasantries in the pews.

But you can't stay home from church. You're the worship leader. Not only are you expected to attend, you're suppose to lead everyone else in worship!

How do we lead worship when we're hurting?

It's easy to lift our hands in praise when things feel glorious, but it's a completely different act when we're in pain. And to lead others in this state is another thing all together. It challenges us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Here are a few thoughts on how to lead worship when you're hurting:

Pray About It

It's my go-to response for everything, and it never lets me down. When I'm going through a difficult time and I'm called upon to lead worship, my first act is to pray in private. I ask God to infuse me with His peace and strength. I ask Him to lead when I cannot. We know that Jesus wept as he moved through his ministry duties. Your pain is not foreign to him.

Talk To Your Team

Remember when we spoke about relationships and prayer with your team? Well, this is where it comes into play. Say to your team, "Today's not a good day for me. We buried my best friend this week. I could really use your prayers today." Just knowing you're surrounded by love can make a world of difference.

Ask Someone Else to Take the Lead

Gerald and I are always aware of raising up leaders within our teams. Maybe this is a good week for you to ask someone else to lead for you? They might just lead one song, or they might take over one task for you - for example, they could take the instrumental lead while you continue in your role of singing and praying. Your load will be lightened, and you'll also practice trusting your fellow musicians, something that can only grow and strengthen your team.

Remember You're Singing to Broken People

Some people will tell you, "There's always someone worse off than you." I hate this statement. It gets us into this weird my-pain-is-better-than-yours competition. Perhaps there's a different way to approach this idea. Here's what I do:

Find some quiet time before your worship service. Ideally, sit in the sanctuary and look over the pews. Think of each person who will sit there during the service. Think about the things that they are going through - their grief, their loneliness, their illness, their struggles. Now, think about how much they need to worship. In this moment, I always remember my calling, my authority, as a worship leader. God has called each of us - leaders, singers, musicians - into this role. Those hurting people need to worship, and we have the honour of trying to lead them closer to God today. For whatever reason, this always locks me into place. 

Step Down If You Have To

Maybe it isn't just a bad day. Maybe you're truly in a time of depression and long-term struggle. Find some time to speak with your pastor. Seek some counselling. In consultation, consider taking some time off. It's better to take a break and care for yourself than risk the harsh reality of burnout.

Remember to Worship

Worship leaders and Christian artists are notorious for allowing the performance aspects to distract us from actually worshiping. It's easy enough for it to happen - how can I get swept up in worship when I have that key change coming up at bar 34? But on rough days, it's even more important that we are not just worship leaders, but lead worshipers. Cry out to God. Sing His praises. Give thanks for your blessings. You will draw closer to God and, as promised, God will draw closer to you. And in your authenticity, those you are leading will draw closer to God as well. I don't know quite how that works, but it does, and I'm so grateful for it.

 I'd love to hear your thoughts on how you've lead worship in difficult times. 
Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below. 

Worship Wednesdays is a weekly series to encourage and equip worship leaders and songwriters. Bookmark this page & visit us every Wednesday!


David said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for the Godly wisdom you have shared here. It will make a difference for many, as it has for me.

April Shepherd said...

I grew up in a Pentecostal pastor's home...I was a "preacher's kid", and with that title came the obligation to lead our congregation in worship. Mom on the piano, dad (our Pastor) on guitar, one brother on the drums and my other brother singing with me. We led worship in many local churches and 'old folks homes" for about 5 years. One Saturday morning, my grandmother died. My dad's mom. We were VERY close and her death was sad, quick, and unexpected, but her heart belonged to Jesus. The next day we had to lead Sunday service worship time as we did every Sunday. The only problem was, grandma attended our church every Sunday for years and the grief of losing her just the day before was so overwhelming, I had to step back after every few song lines and recompose myself. My eyes didn't leave the focus of staring at what used to be her spot in the pew. After several attempts to get thru a song, I decided I was too overcome to finish and I excused myself and left the room to find a spot alone in the church and cry. The service continued without me. I could not finish. The points you bring up are very accurate and I appreciate that you don't say "just pray and hope worship goes ok".

Allison Lynn said...

Thank you, David! I'm glad you were able to take some encouragement from this post.


Allison Lynn said...


Thank you for sharing this sensitive moment. Your story is exactly why I wanted to write this blogpost. In order to authentically lead worship, we need to bring our humanity to the table. Sometimes, that just means honestly dealing with the balance between our personal pain and our responsibility to our congregation.

Like you, I'm also a PK :) I think watching your parent lead worship in all stages of their lives also prepares you for dealing with the tougher days of ministry.